Got Milk? You don’t have to answer yes.

What About Calcium on a Dairy Free Diet?

I’m constantly having conversations with friends and parents and parents’ friends and friends who are parents about the potential benefits of taking dairy out of the diet. Nine out of ten times, the first question is “What about calcium and bone health if we take out dairy?” What I sometimes want to say is, “What about it?” But usually what I do say is that, calcium from dairy is actually poorly absorbed by our bodies and there are much better sources out there.

Also, as the milk intake in children in the US has increased, bone health has decreased, so clearly milk isn’t the magic bullet for bone health. I, personally, believe there are many factors contributing to our poor bone health, especially among kids. Some of which are: poor calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium sources/intake (all are needed for strong bones), stress, high phosphorus foods (milk! and dark soda), and high acid foods/drinks.

Dairy Free Story # 1

I talked to a mom this week who’s child responded amazingly well with much improved behavior when the dairy was taken out, but lost a little weight in their transition to gluten-free/casein-free or GF/CF.  (There are ways to avoid unwanted weight loss… make an appointment with me for help!) The doctor was so worried about the weight that he totally disregarded the improvement in ALL OTHER areas of life. This is unfortunate since there are really easy ways to increase calories and fat in kids’ diets through real food if the calories from whole milk are removed. This is why I am at Marian Hope Center… to help you through these transitions.

Dairy Free Story #2

Another kiddo who just turned 1 year old has had chronic rashes in various places, very poor circulation, foul smelling stools, general moodiness, and poor weight gain. Her mom took out just the milk (they are working towards getting cheese and yogurt out) and within two weeks her skin was clear, mood improved, diaper rash gone, fingers were no longer purple from poor circulation and stools were less foul smelling! Just the milk, and all those things improved. I’m not making this up, people!


The Dairy Council has convinced most of America that consuming dairy is essential for bone health.  The research paints a different picture.  Diets emphasizing dairy don’t necessarily equal better bone health.  In many parts of the world dairy is a very, very small part of the diet, and bone problems from lack of calcium are rare. This quote sums up the research:

Scant evidence supports nutrition guidelines focused specifically on increasing milk or other dairy product intake for promoting child and adolescent bone mineralization. (Lanou 2006)

There you have it. Don’t worry about the health of your child who doesn’t consume dairy. All you need to do is include well-absorbed calcium sources, and be sure the calories from milk, cheese and yogurt are replaced with another calories source. Of course, now you’re wondering what the good sources of calcium are. Never fear, I wouldn’t leave you without them…


Non-Dairy Calcium Sources

Sesame butter (unhulled sesame seeds)

Salmon with bones1


Cooked turnip greens

Cooked bok choy

Cooked collards

Cooked spinach2

Cooked kale3

Navy beans4

Pinto beans4


Hazelnuts (filbert)


Sunflower seeds


1. Salmon bones in canned salmon are very soft so can be mashed with a fork when making Salmon patties. No one will know they are eating the bones

2. Spinach is high in Oxalate when raw. Oxalate decreases calcium absorption, but cooking Spinach decreases the oxalates making the Calcium more bio-available.

3. Kale is a LOW oxalate food so you can get the calcium from raw or cooked. Try Kale Chips!!!

4. Beans contain phytates which inhibit mineral absorption. To decrease phytates, use dry beans, soak overnight, and boil in fresh water. Beans can also be hard to digest so if you experience gas after eating beans, don’t eat them often and chew really well

Isn’t Soy High in Calcium?

Yes, it is high in calcium; but in all aspects of nutrition, it’s a four letter word. Just say no to soy!

Since this isn’t a blog on Soy, I’ll just give you some resources if you need help being convinced.

The Dark Side of Soy

The Whole Soy Story

Soy Alert

So that wraps it up for this time. Remember, if you need help navigating the nutrition maze,  email me at to schedule an appointment. I see adults and children and your child does not have to be receiving services at Marian Hope Center.

Real Food Part 5 – Grains

grainsSo we continue with our real food series… Granted, we are just scratching the surface of each of these topics, but I’ve been doing my best to give you links to more information. We have now come down to the last topic in this series- grains. Oh the controversy!

If you haven’t noticed, I lean towards the Paleo lifestyle which, in its strictest form, doesn’t include any grains at all. I prefer to use the Paleo diet as a template for a real food lifestyle. It’s not that I’m a Paleo die-hard, but I like it so much because since it is so popular, we have amazing real food recipes and support available all over the internet.

But, grain free isn’t as important to me as gluten free. Gluten is wreaking havoc on everyone and I’m a Registered Dietitian who will unashamedly say that more whole grains are not better.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut and commercial oats. Gluten is highly inflammatory to the GI system and also produces substances (like Zonulin) that break down the integrity of the gut lining making way for even more inflammation!

Children with Autism often have a compromised gut and the symptoms are not always (or ever) gastrointestinal (gas, diarrhea, constipation, etc). If the protein in gluten is not properly broken down during digestion, it can form opioids (opiate- or morphine-like compounds). This means our children (and adults) can quite literally be addicted to wheat in a way that they feel withdrawals when they don’t have it every couple of hours. This prevents the brain from being able to work properly. What we feed our children will enhance or inhibit their brain function.

I have seen so many adults with chronic conditions needing multiple medications to control symptoms whose issues resolve with just taking out gluten. This is everything from joint pain to anxiety to heartburn to fatty liver disease and so much in between. Taking Gluten out won’t fix everything but it’s the place to start if you think you should be feeling better than you are.

The same is true for children. The effect of gluten on children is even more scary to me because of all the digestive and behavioral issues our kids are dealing with on a daily basis. I’m finding it more and more rare to meet kids who actually feel good, behave well and learn without complications. What we eat is part of the problem and must be part of the solution.

Is Gluten Free a Fad?

Questions always come up about why all of a sudden no one tolerates gluten. Well, in reality we haven’t been tolerating it since they started changing the wheat in the 1960’s, but it’s taken this long for it us to really get a handle on that reality. Yes, more people have Celiac disease and even more people have gluten intolerance. I would argue that everyone will feel better when they get the gluten out even if there are not overt or noticeable symptoms.

Some would argue it’s all a fad/hype. Admittedly, there is a lot of hype and buzz around gluten free living, gluten intolerance, etc. BUT, the hype and the fad lies only in the wide acceptance of gluten free junk foods as suitable substitutes for our usual junk foods. Neither are helpful and people are making billions of $$ off of processed gluten free foods. The reality is people DO feel better when they take gluten out, but the real power in healing the gut and the brain is in trading processed foods for real foods.

(Yes, it is sometimes necessary and helpful when transitioning children to use some gluten free waffles, cereals, etc. In fact, I recommend trading out 3 usual gluten products for its gluten free substitute when transitioning more finicky eaters. Over time – work towards less grains and processed foods.)

What about all the other gluten free grains?

I think they are a helpful substitute in many scenarios, but they are absolutely not necessary. There are plenty of ways to get enough fiber, vitamins and minerals from all the other real foods we’ve discussed in this series. The minerals from any grain (gluten or not) are poorly digested and absorbed so in the end, grains are still not a powerful food. If you just can’t imagine giving up grains completely, or need to take it slower to get/keep kids on board, go for rice cooked with lots of butter and/or in real homemade bone broth instead of using a lot of corn. This doesn’t mean you don’t make gluten free cookies for special occasions or gluten free cake for birthdays or have gluten free pancakes on Sunday morning. Believe me- I plan on having gluten free cake on my birthday and loving it! I’m just saying these are not our staples.


There is so much out there about gluten free so I wanted to give you some resources for more reading. Dr. Davis book “Wheat Belly” is always a good starting point especially for someone who is hard to convince. He does a great job of being funny, practical and scientific. Also, I love the Hartwigs who wrote “It Starts with Food.” Below are links to two of their articles on gluten. Also they have The Grain Manifesto which is succinct and helpful.

Gluten Free Part I

Gluten Free Part II

The author of Practical Paleo has a printable PDF at her website that is also helpful to just put in the fridge as you get used to recognizing gluten containing foods. Here is her Guide to Gluten- scroll down to “guide to gluten.”

So ya’ll, that’s the deal. We just don’t need grains, but when you do eat them- GO GLUTEN FREE. It’s honestly never been easier to eat gluten free than right now. Restaurants are more and more understanding. Lastly, if you’ve got a child with special needs and you’re going to see if gluten will help things, be sure to give it at least a month as the first 2 weeks can be like detox where behaviors/moods can get worse (same for adults), but keep going! And, go for it with the whole family if possible- often kids/teenagers/husband get on board when they realize how much better they feel!!

Real Food Part 3 – Treats!

In the spirit of our “real food” series, I thought we’d take a break from information and give you some of my favorite real food treat recipes. Each recipe has passed the test of both my husband, our friends, and my 2-year-old niece. We use these types of recipes to replace processed sugar and gluten-free processed desserts.

Chocolate pudding recipe

(Adapted from

Serves 6


  •  3 medium avocados
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ¼ cup and 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp flavored extract (mint, coffee, almond, hazelnut), optional

Preparation:  Throw everything into one big mixing bowl and use a stand mixer or a hand mixer to blend it all together. Of course, you can also use a blender or a food processor to to this job. (I use an emulsion blender and it works great) Blend until completely smooth eat! Leftovers go in the refrigerator. Enjoy!


Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Egg Free Brownies!

(Adapted from

These are becoming a weekly event at our house. They are a little gooey, but delicious and I’ve served to friends who loved them. I just called them a “gooey chocolate brownie.” I consider this a perfectly legitimate way to increase fiber intake since the dates are a fabulous fiber foo  d!


  •  1 cup pitted Medjool dates, chopped (i.e. chop up enough dates to equal 1 cup)brownies
  •  3/4 cup hot water
  •  1 Tbsp coconut oil
  •  2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  •  2 tsp finely ground coffee or espresso
  •  1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  3/4 cup blanched almond flour
  •  1/2 tsp baking soda
  •  1/4 tsp kosher flake salt


  1.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper (or grease generously).
  2. Combine dates, hot water, coconut oil, vanilla, and finely ground coffee in heatproof bowl. Let dates soak while preparing remaining ingredients.
  3.  Add dry ingredients (cocoa powder through salt) to bowl and whisk until well combined and no lumps are present.
  4.  In food processor or with emulsion blender: Add date/water mixture to bowl of processor and blend on high until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Add dry ingredients and process until smooth. The batter will be thick. (Once date mixture is blended, you can mix in dry ingredients by hand. This is easier to me)
  5.  Turn batter into prepared pan, using a spatula to get ALL of the batter into the pan. Spread batter evenly and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until brownies are set. Cool on wire rack for 20-30 minutes, then chill (in fridge — or even the freezer) before cutting into squares.

(Optional amazingness– sprinkle dairy, soy free chocolate chips on tip of hot brownies, smooth when melted on hot brownies and finish cooling in fridge. This gives you a hard chocolate topping and a prettier finished product)


Simple Blueberry Muffins

(adapted from

Serves: 8-10


  •  1 cup almond buttersimple-blueberry-muffins
  •  1 cup almond meal/almond flour
  •  3 eggs, whisked
  •  ½ cup Raw Honey
  •  ⅓ cup unsweetended Shredded Coconut
  •  ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
  •  ½ teaspoon baking soda
  •  ½ teaspoon baking powder
  •  ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  •  pinch of cinnamon
  •  ½ cup fresh blueberries


  1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl (you can get fancy and mix dry and wet separately but I can’t tell the difference)
  3.  Place ingredients into 8-10 silicone muffin cups in a muffin tin or use muffin tin paper liners.
  4.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. Just keep an eye on it, they will puff up and look adorable.
  5. Eat them and be happy.

Real Food Part 2 – Produce

producePerhaps the most obvious “real foods” are fruits and vegetables. I won’t belabor the benefits of fruits and vegetables because that is public knowledge (one thing the USDA and I actually agree on), but that doesn’t change that most of us still struggle to get them in, wonder how to use them, and have questions about quality. I’ll do my best to clarify some of these issues, and feel free to leave comments below if you have other real food quandaries.

Before we get started, let’s make it clear that although they can have a place in the diet, veggie chips and veggie straws are not real food. Although they may have some level of vegetable content in them, they are still considered a processed food and are generally cooked in unhealthy vegetable oils. It’s better than many other snack foods out there, but let’s not confuse it with a real vegetable serving. The same goes for fruit juice. Although some nutrition is present, nothing compares to real, whole fruits and vegetables.

Getting enough:
In an ideal world every kid would eat their veggies and every adult too. But, even as an adult and as a dietitian, I still struggle to get in enough vegetables. (Confession: it’s 2:30 pm and I’ve had one serving of vegetables – yes, one). Especially with kids, for picky eaters (young and old) this can be a struggle.

How much do we need?
Children 1-8 years old need 1-2 cups vegetables and 1 c fruit
Children 9-18 years old need 2-4 cups vegetables and 1-2 c fruit
Adults 3-5 cups vegetables and 2-3 c fruit
(Don’t get too hung up on the servings- just try to eat more than you did yesterday)

Here are 3 simple ways to get more veggies:
1. Add vegetables like cucumber, kale, chard or spinach to smoothies at breakfast. Spinach, except for changing the color, can go undetected in smoothies. Kale and chard have a little flavor but not still work great! The extra fiber helps make smoothies more filling

2. Make 1/2 your plate vegetables (split other 1/2 between starch and protein). For many people this can double their vegetable intake! Remember corn, peas and potato are starches so limit intake of these to about 1/2 c at a time.

3. Add veggies like carrot sticks, cucumber, or cherry tomato to snacks.

Let’s break this down for an adult:
Breakfast: 2 c spinach in smoothie or 1 c cooked spinach or 1 sliced tomato = 1 servings
Lunch: 1/2 c roasted carrots & 1/2 c broccoli with butter = 2 servings
Snack: ~10 cherry tomatoes or 1 c raw carrots, cucumber, celery = 1 serving
Dinner: 2 c lettuce salad & 1/2 c green beans = 2 servings


How to cook vegetables:
Cook veggies any way you like them but always with fat. Yes, you read that correctly. Research shows that nutrients from vegetables are better absorbed by the body when eaten with fat. One study with low-fat and full-fat salad dressing showed those who ate salad with full-fat dressing absorbed more nutrients from the salad. Kids will usually eat vegetables better when cooked in real butter. It’s quick and easy to just saute sliced veggies in a pan with coconut oil or butter seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic. Keep it simple! When trying to get kids to eat vegetables remember they need lots of repeated exposure so serve a vegetable at every meal and every snack and don’t pressure them to eat. Also, remember that frozen vegetables have not sat in a truck in transit or on the shelf at the store so are able to maintain more nutrients. When you buy fresh vegetables, use them as quickly as possible.

Just as all meat is not alike, not all vegetable sources are alike. There’s not enough time in this blog post to go into issues of soil depletion and pesticides, but as a rule of thumb, choose organic and local vegetables whenever possible. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid GMO foods as much as possible. This is particularly important for our kids with Autism. If you need more information on the downside of GMO foods check here.

Unfortunately most people have to make financial decisions when it comes to quality of food so if you can’t buy all organic produce, here is a list of the “dirty dozen” that you want to always try to buy organic and the “clean 15” that are okay to buy conventional.

Real Food Part 1 – Protein

One of the major benefits of real food is the nutrient density. There are no “empty calories” in these foods. They don’t just fill us up, they nourish our bodies. Liz Lipski, a PhD nutritionist, in her book, “Digestive Wellness for Kids,” appropriately notes “we are the most overfed and undernourished people in the world.” This is SO true and it is most evident, I believe, in our children.

In the previous blog, I introduced the concept of real foods and now let’s look more in depth at the benefits from our real food protein sources.

Grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, pastured eggs, pastured pork, lamb, and nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, etc) are all great examples of REAL protein sources. We will look specifically at beef and eggs.

But first, you might be wondering, what does “pastured” mean? Pastured basically means the animal has been able to freely roam pasture where it can graze on grass and get sunlight. Grass, earthworms and bugs on the ground are the animal’s source of food which is exactly what they were designed to eat! Pastured animal products have more nutrition, less toxins, and no worry about antibiotics. The modernization of farming practices to feed solely or primarily grain as the food source for chickens, pigs and cattle has both changed and depleted the nutrition we get from eating their meat.

Two of our real food protein sources I want to highlight are grass-fed beef and eggs. Both of these are powerful sources of nutrition- especially in children.

 Grass-fed beef: Some would say that meat is meat, but it’s just not true. Yes, a grass fed cow and a conventionally fed cow will have the same amount of protein per oz of meat, but the fat content, type of fat and toxin levels in the meat will be vastly different. There is well established research that shows grass-fed beef has higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids and lower total fat that conventional fed beef. (Here is more info)

Conventional-fed beef is fed all sorts of GMO grain, and primarily corn which raises inflammatory factors and the fat content of the meat. There are whole books written on the benefits of grass-fed beef, but the bottom line is- it IS better! Beef from a well- cared for animal is a powerful source of nutrition you should not miss.

Yes, grass-fed beef is more expensive than conventional, but the benefits are well worth the cost. Even buying it some of the time is better than not at all. The way to make it affordable is to get to know a local farmer producing grass-fed meat and share a whole cow with other families (or your extended family). My husband and I share a whole cow with 2 other families each year. The website Eat Wild allows you to search for local farmers in our area! If you aren’t inclined to make friends with your farmer or share with other families, you can order fabulous products from US Wellness Meats. This company is more expensive than what can be found locally, but it sure is convenient and shipping/packaging are really well done.

 Pastured eggs: Pastured eggs come from chickens who are freely roaming eating grass, grubs, bugs, etc. as their source of nutrition. Pastured eggs are, in my opinion, better than organic eggs because the amount of sunlight chicken gets and eating grubs and bugs from the ground are a big factor in the nutrition of the egg (but organic is still better than conventional). For more information about egg package labeling (which is super confusing even to me!) check out this article at Real Food University.

What about the cholesterol? One of the people I trust the most when it comes to understanding fat, cholesterol and our bodies is Chris Masterjohn. He has been a pioneer in reclaiming the truth about fat and cholesterol saying, “the slew of nutrients in an egg yolk is so comprehensive that a few a day would offer better insurance than a multi-vitamin.” (full article here) As provocative as that sounds- he’s right! Many of us take poorly absorbed vitamins and have spent years focusing on egg whites instead of yolks. We could have just been eating egg! Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of a quality multivitamin and we should all be taking one, but take a good one and eat your eggs! Eggs also contain high levels of biotin and choline which are powerful nutrients for the developing brain of kids (especially in the womb).

There is nothing quite like the taste and look of a dark yellow/orange egg yolk. If you haven’t ever seen a golden, dark yellow, almost orange egg yolk, you probably haven’t eaten high quality pastured eggs. The darker the yolk, the more DHA in the egg. I am a huge fan of local eggs that can give you fabulous nutrition at a lower price than pastured eggs in the grocery store.

To find Kansas City area eggs check out Local Harvest.

I’ll be back next week for more on real food. Stay tuned…

Are you eating real food?

Many of you are aware of what is being called by some a “real food movement,” in an effort to bring people back to real food instead of fake, man-made, processed foods. To our great- grandparents and grandparents, it is laughable that many are going to such great efforts to redeem, explain, and use the foods they grew up on. However the unfortunate reality is in our high-tech, fast paced, convenience driven culture, real food is foreign food to many people. In the next few nutrition blogs, we will take a look at some of the benefits of these foods in more detail.

What do I mean by real food?

There is not an official definition (and it’s not needed) but it is beneficial to understand what I mean by “real food.” Here are a few definitions, all of with which I agree.

  •  Those that nature gives us, plants, roots, fruits, nuts, seeds, meats, eggs, milk (unpasteurized) and those made from it. (
  • Real food is wholesome and nourishing. It is simple, unprocessed, whole food. Real food is pure and unadulterated, sustained yet largely unchanged by man. (
  • Food that is as close to its natural and original state as possible. Real food is not produced in a factory, it is not engineered in a lab, nor is it full of artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors.(

 Here is what real foods should do:

  • Real food is food that has been eaten for thousands of years without ever really changing – fruits and veggies, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, fermented foods, etc.
  • Real food doesn’t have a list of ingredients. As Michael Pollan would say, “Don’t eat anything that has more than five ingredients.” And if you can’t pronounce them, chances are, it’s probably not real food.
  • Real food comes from local farmers and ranchers and is grown without steroids, antibiotics, chemicals and pesticides.
  • Real food should be the fuel our bodies use to carry out its everyday functions.
  • Real food looks like what it is – a tomato that smells like a tomato (not a tomato that has been altered in a lab), an egg from a chicken who got to eat grass and grubs and peck at the ground, a steak from a cow who got to graze on open pasture.

(adapted from– since she says it as well as I would)

 In contrast, “fake food” could be defined as: foods that human beings create or alter trying to imitate, enhance, or mimic the benefits of the natural food. Usually fake foods are created either to make money or provide convenience.

As we prepare to discuss real food in more detail, take a look at the foods your family eats this week and ask these questions:

  • Do we eat more fake food than real food?
  • Have I bought into the marketing messages that fake foods are healthier (lowfat/fat free products)?
  • Do I know what to do with real food?

I’ll be back next week to talk more about real food which is so vital to the health of our children from head to toe. If you have any “real food” questions or comments, feel free to use the comment section below.

– Blakely Page RD,LD- the Registered Dietitian with Marian Hope Center

Meet Our Dietitian!

015Blakely_Tom_ESHello everyone, I’m Blakely Page RD,LD– the Registered Dietitian with Marian Hope Center. I’ve already met some of the fabulous families with amazing kids at Marian Hope Center and I’m looking forward to meeting more of you! Let me tell you a little about myself, and then I’ll let you in on the exciting developments happening in the nutrition world at Marian Hope Center.

About Me:

I have been a Registered Dietitian since 2004 after graduating with a BS in Nutritional Sciences from Oklahoma State University. I came to Kansas City after college for my dietetic internship (like a residency) and loved this city so much that I stayed! I have worked as a clinical dietitian in 3 hospitals in the metro area, had some corporate wellness experience, and most recently transitioned to the world of pediatrics through experience at a WIC (women, infants and children) clinic.

After finishing school, I had a feeling there was more to the story than what I learned in school. I also didn’t feel well myself. I was tired and gaining weight while I was applying what I’d been taught in school to my own diet. I began researching and re-learning much of what I learned about nutrition. As a result, I have been on a successful healing journey and my nutrition paradigm (belief system) is different than what you might find from a Registered Dietitian. I believe many of the mental, emotional, behavioral and social difficulties both children and adults are facing in the 21st century can be improved or eliminated through the foods and supplements we take. I believe that using real food like the types of foods our ancestors ate (traditional foods) are the key to preventing and healing chronic diseases and having healthy, vibrant, focused children.

These beliefs about food and nutrition are what make Marian Hope Center and I such a good fit. We value all aspects of your child and know that nutrition plays a key role in unlocking the full potential of children. With so many different and conflicting nutrition messages out there, I can help your family take the practical steps toward better nutrition for your whole family.


Nutrition at Marian Hope Center:

There are so many possibilities ahead as our nutrition program develops and I am excited to be here. One of the best ways I can support the nutrition and development of the families at Marian Hope Center is to be accessible to parents. There are individual nutrition consults available, additional support through the current Nutritional Management Support Group, and many more resources on the way!

Through individual consults, I can help your family step by step through the maze of nutrition information while providing practical tools on how to improve the nutrition of your family. This may be best done in your home, at the grocery store, or during one of your children’s therapy sessions at Marian Hope Center. However and wherever it works best for you, I am here to help you. You can get more information about consults by emailing me at and watch for more updates on the website about our nutrition program.

Stay tuned here for more nutrition blogs every week. I look forward investing in the lives of you and your family!